Moments of West End History
By Rosemary Remore Bradford
Two giant billboards stood at the intersection of Duke and West Seventh Streets. They wrapped around the corner at a slightly shallow 45-degree angle and were built of sturdy 2x6s (or 8s?). Once painted green and now weather-worn to almost gray, only a hint of that original color remained visible here and there. The bracing timbers grew from out of the ground 20 feet below street level in the hollow and soared to 40 feet above street level at their highest point. It was our neighborhood jungle gym. Who can ever forget the sound of the errant softball ricocheting from timber to timber — boing, boing, boing — like a giant pinball machine, before disappearing into the weedy ground below? And just as today’s kids are fascinated with their hand-held devices, we sat in rapt attention on our bicycles, carefully parked on the sidewalk to avoid impeding the foot traffic. A bright new image was about to appear on the billboard’s front facing side.
Men in painter’s clothes carried tightly rolled bundles of paper under their arms, depositing them in an orderly fashion along the catwalk. Next came the pails and telescoping brushes from the panel truck at the curb. The show was about to begin! Unlike the digitally controlled displays that boldly flash across billboards of today, these new images materialized before our very eyes strip by strip by strip. The workmen flopped a roll of paper over the long handled brush and pushed the strip up, up, up, until it reach the top.... pat, pat, pat … the first part of the puzzle appeared. “Hooray!” we shouted. Casting a quick glance (and little smile) over his shoulder, the “paster” moved quickly to the next strip.
“There it is, there it is, see, part of a nose, see?!” Soon, a whole new picture looked out upon the busy traffic along West Seventh Street. Hooray! We waited patiently while workers piled their brushes and pails back into the panel truck. The rear doors were secured and off they drove. Dropping our bikes carefully in the thick, green weeds, it was time to celebrate our freshly imaged “jungle gym.” The next half hour would find us swinging from crossbar to crossbar or scaling the long members in between like tightrope walkers. Whenever I see a monkey habitat, this youthful image floats back into my mind.
I often fantasized racing my bike along the catwalk, flying through the air just above the top of the tall weeds, landing on the little knoll below. But how would I explain the broken, bent spokes? Or the blown inner tube?
The whole corner is gone today. It has been replaced by a huge overpass that shelters and protects and hides the Short Line below. The gully is gone, the knoll is gone, the magnificent patch of tall, green weeds that filled the hollow is gone. But no matter how eye-catching and awesome are today’s billboards, perched atop their single, thick metal poles with all their glorious color and animation, I remember a different kind of billboard along West Seventh Street — not as flashy but a lot more fun!
Born and raised on St. Paul’s West End, Rosemary graduated from Davis Elementary and Monroe Sr. High. Her first job was with NW Bell. After retiring from a varied career with many companies in Minnesota and Arizona, she and her husband of 53 years traveled the country in a motor home for almost a decade. They now live the easy life in Hastings, Minnesota.
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Transit in the West End
by Kent Petterson
The recently constituted Ramsey County Riverview Corridor Transit Study is a serious effort to identify the “locally preferred alternative” for transit in our West End neighborhood, a designation that is required by the federal government to provide funding for the transit alternative selected in the West End. Two advisory committees, one for policy and one for technical issues, have started meetings to discuss and determine a recommended method and path through the West End.
Their charge is to advise planners and government officials on issues related to the transit choices. The options are: 1-Bus Rapid Transit, 2-Street Car, 3- Light Rail, and 4-None are preferred.
Although the decision-making process will be a long one, up to several years, certain steps along the way are crucial. This Ramsey County study is one of those crucial steps because it is the next and maybe most important step toward determining the locally preferred alternative. If an alternative is determined, expect it to be brought to neighborhood groups for endorsement prior to the required environmental impact study.
Currently, we are six months into the study advisories that will probably last 18-24 months, with the technical advisory expected to finish its work prior the policy advisory. The effectiveness, quality and legitimacy of this work will be in part determined by underlying neighborhood input. The time for input to these advisories by affected neighbors in Little Bohemia, Irvine Park, Uppertown, Dousman, Victoria Park, Kips Glen, Shepherd/Davern and of course Highland is during this advisory process. The technical advisory is a closed meeting process, while the policy advisory will hold public meetings and periodic public forums. According to Mike Rogers, lead planner at Ramsey County, consultants are being hired to facilitate the processes. The public input process will begin soon, including a yet to be developed website for information exchange. See co.ramsey.mn.us/rail to sign up for developing news on this and other transit options.
We are asking that you, as concerned neighbors, offer your input to the advisory process and public officials for this important Ramsey County Riverview Corridor Transit Study. Use and monitor the website when it is developed, ask good questions, offer input and attend meetings when announced.
Here are just a few of the questions that should be considered when choosing the preferred transit alternative.
A- Which alternative will best serve the transit needs of the neighborhood?
B- Which alternative will preserve the existing historical character of the near-downtown area and the many locally owned small businesses?
C- Which alternative will protect the existing single-family housing in the neighborhood? Is the required population density to support the selected transit investment realistic in our narrow corridor?
D- Which alternative can be implemented without once again dividing the neighborhood done in the past by railroads, Shepard Road and I-35E?
Endorsed by: Roger Belfay, Kathleen Corley, Paula Faughender, Diane Gerth, Lori Harris, Maxine McCormick, Ken McCormick, Edie Meissner, Laura L. Nichols PhD, Kent Petterson, Ruth Ann Smith, John Ulven, West 7th Business Association Board.
To endorse these ideas, e-mail email@example.com or call 651-665-0068 and leave your name and number.
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We are West 7th: Let’s Get Started
by Jonathon Dickman, MD, PhD
Wouldn’t it be nice to know all the wonderful resources located in the West Seventh community? For example, did you know that RiverGarden Yoga (455 West Seventh) has donation-only classes so that everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, can enjoy this refreshing exercise? Also, that Mississippi Market (1500 West Seventh) has a variety of affordable cooking and food classes so that you can learn how to eat healthier? The community member-led We Are West 7th! project is hoping to deliver all of this information to the community through the creation of an online asset map for everyone to use. The hope is that this online resource will not only reveal all the services that businesses have to offer, but will eventually expand to highlight skilled individuals and leaders in the community as well.
The We Are West 7th! project is now starting the process of creating that online asset map, and is planning to start collecting data this summer. The United Hospital Education and Research Committee and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians have funded this project. Thanks to their support, we are now hiring. We are looking to fill the following five positions to get the project going this summer:
1) Two senior surveyors — These people will collect data by physically going out and asking questions to each organization in the West 7th community. Anyone can apply, but preference will be given to local college students.
2) Two associate surveyors — These people will assist senior surveyors. Anyone can apply, but preference will be given to local senior high school students with good typing skills.
3) Team coordinator — This person will organize the activities of and data collected by the two surveyor teams. Anyone can apply, but preference will be given to a local community member.
Each person will be provided a stipend as compensation and is expected to work a total of 160 hours on the project (20 hours per week for 8 weeks). We also welcome volunteers who are simply interested in contributing to this project. The We Are West 7th! project is led by community volunteers who are passionate about improving the overall welfare of their neighborhood. Some of our best ideas have come from local volunteers. We would love to hear from you!
To apply for a job, or if you simply are interested in helping out, please send an email to both Marit Brock (firstname.lastname@example.org) and me (email@example.com) with any comments or questions regarding We Are West 7th!
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Landmark Tree Program Seeks Nominations
by Jennifer Gehlhar
St. Paul’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Forestry, Tree Advisory Panel, is accepting nominations for the Landmark Tree Program now until November 1. Anyone can nominate a tree considered to be integral to the surrounding environment and community within St. Paul.
“Landmark” or “heritage” trees are trees that are awarded special status due to their age, size, rarity or other factors. The West End and West Side neighborhoods have two trees on the registry.
The first, located at the west end of Harriet Island Regional Park, is one of the largest trees in the city at 98 inches in diameter, 102 feet in height and with an 82-foot spread. This is an eastern cottonwood estimated to date back to the 1620s, so when Harriet Island became a park in 1900 the tree had already established itself as a stately shade tree. Growing in ideal conditions, cottonwoods have a maximum lifespan of 200–400 years, according to St. Paul Forestry.
The second, located along the river bluffs of Crosby Farm Regional Park, is a stand of Kentucky coffee trees unparalleled in number and size in St. Paul. This region is about the northern limit of their growing range. Extensive site enhancement is underway to reestablish this ecologically significant plant community while allowing greater access to these trees.
Landmark, historic and heritage tree designations increase public awareness of the important contribution of trees for city and state forestry departments across the United States and Canada — the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducts Minnesota’s Native Big Tree Program — and there is the National Big Tree Program coordinated by American Forests since 1940. These programs also recognize the historic, cultural, beauty and/or critical ecosystem value provided by trees.
Like these programs, the Landmark Tree Program of St. Paul Forestry celebrates exceptional trees while educating the community.
“Some trees have endured since the city’s inception,” reports the St. Paul Forestry Department. “Since then, these trees have continued to provide multiple environmental, physical, social, and economic benefits that have been instrumental in shaping our communities.”
The Tree Advisory Panel (TAP) reviews all nominations in November and then reveals the selected trees at the Blooming St. Paul Awards each January. Nominations are also featured on the St. Paul Natural Resources Facebook page, and one winner is awarded the People’s Choice Award.
An official registry (since 2010) is available — along with Google Map locations, photos and facts, and nomination forms — on the forestry website (stpaul.gov/forestry).
Everyone is invited to join the search for St. Paul’s “landmark” trees. Individuals and groups may submit a tree(s) that are on public or private land. Submit a nomination form and at least one photo of the entire tree to St. Paul Forestry. Forms may be obtained and returned filled-out at stpaul.gov/forestry or at the St. Paul Forestry offices located at 1100 Hamline Ave. N.
Jennifer is working to implement the first Citizen Pruner Program in St. Paul. The certification course on July 26 is provided by the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Tree Care Advocate Program and St. Paul’s forestry department. Training includes a seven-hour session and additional hands-on pruning. To learn more contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org or to sign up for the certification go to mntca.org/mcp-stpaul.
Another of her initiatives is a landscaping partnership with MNDOT, the City of St. Paul and Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association (LBNA) for the property along I-35E from Grand Hill to St. Clair. MNDOT is currently reviewing the application.
And additionally, she is working with LBNA to implement St. Paul Forestry’s revised tree ordinance guidelines for construction crews coming in to rehab vacant housing in the Little Bohemia neighborhood. The guidelines will be applicable to the entire city.
Jennifer Gehlhar is a full-time editor, MN Tree Care Advisor, and MN Master Naturalist. She is a member of the Tree Advisory Panel, and lives in the West End. See linkedin.com/in/jennifergehlhar.
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Community Reporter Needs Your Help
Yes, the paper needs help. For more than 42 years, the paper has provided the community with news and coverage of events in the business, social, educational, spiritual, historical, cultural and artistic activities that make the neighborhood such a historic and dynamic community.
We now find that our advertising revenues (our only source of income) are down, and efforts to improve them are running into changes in the ways businesses and organizations are trying to market themselves. Internet and social media are growing in influence.
The First Way: Our long-standing advertisers are sticking with us — do business with them whenever you can, and let them know your recognize their support of the paper.
If you are a potential advertiser, involved in business, community agencies, social organizations, professions and so on, advertising in the Community Reporter creates a win-win situation. For the advertiser, awareness of your business, service or special event travels through the community through our house-to-house delivery and drops to apartments and businesses from downtown to the river end of West Seventh, as well as exposure on communityreporter.org. For the Community Reporter, advertising allows us to do our job of providing an informational network for the community. So the advertiser is adding value to the community by helping to support the newspaper’s financial health.
The Second Way: Encourage West End businesses that you patronize to try some ads in the Community Reporter. Customers can have a lot of influence in helping us get our message across.
The Third Way: Continue to support our effort to become “a community of reporters.” We encourage your involvement in the creative side of things. We have correspondents, reporters, reviewers and general writers involved. You can write a letter to the editor on a topic we have written about, or in response to one of our columnists, or a longer “Neighbors Speak Out” piece. You can also contribute story ideas. We aim to cover a wide range of interesting areas in the neighborhood. Your ideas for stories and topics that you would like to see covered are always welcome. As a nonprofit organization we are governed by a Board of Directors, and have openings for community members to join. And donations are tax-deductible. For information, call Jerry Rothstein at 651-587-8859 or e-mail email@example.com.
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